Stress is widely known to be the cause of many health issues – from physical ailments including headaches, digestive discomfort, and chest and muscle pain. It can also cause mental upsets including anxiety, depression and sadness, restlessness, irritability and anger.
Certain studies suggest that many sufferers will go through countless medical tests only to find out that stressors in their life were causing all the symptoms. I can rightly put myself in this category as, earlier on in my life, I was experiencing debilitating cramps only to find out that it was all caused by the stressful life situation that I was in.
How many of us understand the mechanism of this natural body instinct or even how to identify stress versus an urgent medical condition?
First off, it’s important to note that stress is a natural reaction to change. Yet, oftentimes, stress is difficult to manage due to the fact that it manifests in a variety of ways including “physically, mentally, or emotionally.”
Simply put, stress is the “body’s reaction to any change that requires an adjustment or response.” When we say any change, that’s exactly what we mean. Stress can be caused by your environment, your body, positive or negative life changes — such as a promotion or a firing, the birth of a child or the separation of a partnership, etc. Stress can even be stirred up by your own thoughts.
This makes stress nearly impossible to escape and therefore must be confronted and dealt with.
Positive Stress Versus Negative Stress
The second important thing to understand about stress is that there are positive and negative forms.
Our bodies are “designed to experience stress and react to it.” Therefore, stress is a positive reaction when it’s acting to keep us safe and combat true stressful situations by “keeping us alert, motivated, and ready to avoid danger.” Most likely you’ve heard this referred to as the “fight or flight response” which encompasses a set of physiological changes spurred by the autonomic nervous system. This type of stress aims is built in to help you avoid danger or help others who are in danger.
On the other hand, “stress becomes negative when a person faces continuous challenges without relief or relaxation between stressors.” In our modern society, there are many non-urgent things — stressful work or home environment, physical stressors, lack of sleep — that may cause our bodies to undertake those same physiological changes on a reoccurring basis. This leads to an overworked and tension-riddled body. Every so often, this isn’t such a bad thing. Yet, “this response can become chronically activated during prolonged periods of stress,” and “prolonged activation of the stress response causes wear and tear on the body — both physical and emotional.”
Stress and Your Body
What happens when the human body is chronically stressed out? You get worn out in all the wrong ways.